Monday, March 9, 2015

CUT at the 2015 Adelaide Fringe


Written and directed by Duncan Graham. Performed by Hannah Norris. Design by Elizabeth Gadsby. Sound by Russell Goldsmith. Lighting by Sam Hopkins.  The Mange -Holden Street Theatres. Adelaide Fringe 2015,. February 10 - March 14.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Hannah Norris appears in CUT by Duncan Graham

Award winning writer, Duncan Graham weaves a mesmerizing narrative in his new play, CUT, currently playing at the Holden Street Theatres in Adelaide’s suburb of Hindmarsh. It’s appropriate that this new and intriguing work should be performed on the fringe of the Adelaide Fringe. It is on the fringe that the seeds of imagination give forth their originality. It is here that ideas can find expression and are allowed the fertile ground of experiment, discovery and impact. Graham’s investigation of the mind’s perception has been inspired by the Greek Fates who weave there thread of fate until it is finally cut by Atropos, the one who must be feared. Fear permeates Graham’s text, weaving its narrative of an air hostess who fears a man, who appears to be stalking her, Throughout the performance moments of reality are instantly invaded by moments of terror that plunge the room into darkness, cutting us off from reality before the lights restore to continue the woven thread towards its catastrophic “end-time”

To begin at the beginning. Only 18 audience members are allowed at any performance of CUT. We are ushered into a room of the house at Holden Street by actor, Hannah Norris, who indicates our seating on either side of the room behind a row of lights that indicate the passageway on an aircraft. With the charming magnanimity of a hostess, she instructs us on the requirements of our presence, and the conditions of attending this intimate performance. The room envelops with the atmosphere of cautious expectation. We are travellers, led into the unknown, our momentary fate in the hands of Norris and CUT’s production team. Suddenly we are plunged into the first blackout .

It is morning and the air hostess prepares for work. A wave of panic strikes at the sight of eyes of ash staring at her. Paranoia or reality? Fear cuts across the mundane thread of routine, plunging the mind into the terrifying darkness of delusion. Graham’s psychological thriller is a skillfully constructed and interwoven narrative of reality and illusion, leaving an audience in quandary as the air hostess unravels her real or imagined vision as the man appears before her in the mirror, on the plane, on the platform, in the train and eventually in the privacy of her home. Two fates collide in a swathe of gladwrap threads across the room which are finally cut in one frantic act of murder.

CUT is the cleverly crafted work of a methodical writer with an imaginative feel for the dramatic and the theatrical. His challenge to the solo performer is to take on the dual roles of narrator and victim. It is a precarious balance, and one that requires consummate control and masterful technique, while also capturing in an instant the depth of emotion of the troubled mind and fearful heart. In Hannah Norris, Graham has the ideal actor. With impeccable skill, expert timing and emotional intensity, Norris charts the challenging course from storyteller to charming, compliant flight attendant to a woman obsessed, driven by demons to one solitary fateful act that will seal her destiny.  Assisted by Sam Hopkins’ atmospheric lighting design and Russell Goldsmith’s evocative sound design, Norris conjures a woman bound by her own entrapment. The tension is palpable and the final solution shocking and irrevocable.
It is hardly surprising that CUT should have been recognized as a Weekly Award Winner at the Adelaide Fringe. It is predictable that further honours lay in wait for this excellent production.